I received an e-mail from someone who had purchased one of my books and was trying to get into the computer field. The person told me a little bit of background and asked me the question: "So, do you think I can succeed in the computer field?"
It's a question I get often. Of course, my initial answer was an enthusiastic, "Yes! You can do it!" and other typical encouragement-type stuff (often what the person is really looking for). I went on to briefly discuss working hard, taking initiative, learning in a hands-on manner, and being positive. Nothing wrong with any of that.
However, for some reason, this time it got me thinking. There was something missing, and after some thought I realized it was this:
Especially because I've only read a short e-mail about the person asking the question—I really don't know very much about that particular person. Because of this, I'm not really qualified to give an opinion either way. And besides, we all know how much opinions are worth. In my life, I look for less opinion, and more fact (and truth).
Here's the bottom line: it really doesn't matter what a single person thinks. If someone wants to do something, they should go do it—whatever it might be. A person should not need my affirmation (or anyone else's) to go do something.
Here are the Facts: Virtually anyone can enter the computer field. It's a matter of the 4 D's: discipline, desire, dedication, and determination. If you continually employ those principles, you will succeed. End of story.
Back to the e-mail at hand. I don't usually like to answer a question with a question. Nevertheless, I appended my original boilerplate answer and said, "Consider asking yourself some questions..."
And they were these:
- How much do you want it?
- How much time and effort are you willing to put into it?
- Most importantly: Do you love it? Meaning, do you love to work on computers, networks, programs, code, and so on? Do you have the desire?
Because here's the thing: if you don't love it, you won't last long. The computer field is just like any other: ups and downs; fun times and not-so-fun times (with the occasional disaster thrown in); good companies and bad ones; good co-workers, snarky ones, and "sharky" ones. A person must be ready for all that and remain positive through it all. That's what helps a person to persevere over the long-term. That's determination.
But for me, what it really boils down to is confidence. Confidence in yourself. Confidence in your ability to adapt to new situations and learn new technologies. People often ask: "How do you build confidence?" Well, I suppose a person could write a book about that, and probably has. But to be brief, speaking from my experience, you do it in small blocks. Start with a little task. It could be anything: sending a resume, making a phone call, coding an auto-minimizing terminal window, whatever. Complete it efficiently and then take a small bit of pride in it. Realize that you are now on the path. Add another small block. Repeat. Do this continuously over time; that's where the discipline and dedication come in to play. As you do so, your plan will begin to form.
As time passes, you will find that your confidence grows; it just kind of happens. But also, in a way, you become confident by simply believing in yourself, believing that you are a confident person. The "self-created legend" so to speak. You create your own confidence by simply saying "I can do this!"—and this ultimately leads us back full circle to my original answer to the e-mail: "Yes, you can do it."
And you can.